Milos Raonic may call Thornhill, Ontario his home but the big serving Canadian’s home-from-home was where he picked up his first clay court win of 2012. Al Dannity looks back at a possible turning point in Raonic’s season.
The fall of Falla
After losing in his first match at Monte Carlo last week, there was plenty of pressure on Milos Raonic entering Monday’s meeting with Colombia’s Alejandro Falla. Raonic was 17-4 on the season, with two titles in 2012 before this battle with the Colombia. A career 10-9 record on clay however boded ill for the promising world #25, who has been dubbed the Canadian Sampras. Falla being a lefty didn’t help either, as Raonic’s career record against left-handers was 6-9 before this week. If ever there was a match designed to test the Canadian’s confidence, this was it.
Raonic delivered and he did so in straight sets, hitting 7 aces and converting 3 of 4 break points in a 6-4 7-6 win. Unsurprisingly, Raonic credited much of his success to an effective serving game. “I’m happy to put the win together and get it right,” he said after the match. “I feel like there’s a lot I can do better so I’m happy to give myself another chance in the next round. Falla is a very good player. My serve was key in getting the win.”
The location of this tournament will surely have helped fix Raonic’s mental game. The Real Club de Tenis in Barcelona is Raonic’s training base, and he worked on his game there last November and December. With local support behind him, the Canadian will have a home-from-home advantage for much of this tournament.
The next step
Raonic’s first target this week was breaking his duck and getting a win on clay in 2012. The next challenge will be progressing to the last 16. To do so he’ll need to get past either Igor Andreev or Diego Junqueira. Raonic has a 1-1 record against Andreev, with the Canadian winning their most recent meeting at Estoril last year, while he has never faced world #141 Junqueira.
Raonic should win that match-up, irrespective of whether its Andreev or Junqueira, and that in turn would set up a likely clash with Nicolas Almagro for a place in the quarter finals. Despite beating Almagro en route to the title in Chennai back in January, Raonic would surely be an underdog against the Spaniard on clay. For now it’s all about baby steps. If he can make it to the last 16, it will be mission accomplished for this week. After that anything is gravy between now and the Masters Series tournament in Madrid.
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